Red Heaven Image

Red Heaven

By Andrew Stover | March 22, 2020

Being human comes with imperfections and intricacies. Who’s to say that none of the astronauts will take matters into their own hands? Who’s to say that none of them will stray away from the mission guidelines and attempt to live and operate their own way? There’s a lot of unknowns and uncertainties for a mission to Mars. The HI-SEAS mission crew do their best to imitate the hazards of a Martain setting. For instance, when Christiane’s suit has an oxygen malfunction while exploring the rocky terrain, she can’t take off her helmet and breathe in Earth’s fresh air because it’ll defeat the purpose of the experiment. Instead, the crew must help her back to the habitat before taking off the suit.

The topic of water consumption leads to disputes, and the lack of privacy and personal space leads to uneasiness. Slowly, the general ambiance of the 1,200 feet habitat morphs from exuberance to apprehension. What’s deeply impressive about Red Heaven is how DeFilippo and Gorringe are able to vivify the risks and uncertainties associated with a mission in this capacity, as we already know we’re watching a simulation. Their cinéma vérité approach amplifies every predicament and miscalculation along the way.


“Their cinéma vérité approach amplifies every predicament and miscalculation…”

The crew trades off who films who, thus capturing everyone in their natural state. David Alvarado’s spellbinding cinematography does work wonders whenever he indulges a long shot of the Mauna Loa serrated landscapes. A lot of care went into creating this simulation and this documentary. Of course, when the actual astronauts are preparing for liftoff to Mars, they’ve already had years of preparation and experience under their belt.

Red Heaven is a documentary that’s bigger than all of us. It’s about planning for the future and knowing how well we can adjust to isolation and to ourselves. Stuck in a poky space with the same six people and limited resources, one must be able to control their ego, emotions, and propensity to act alone. Near the end of the documentary, the wayward crew must come together to fix the pipelines that control their water supply. Unity, communication, and cooperation are what will fuel the success of the mission.

It’s true that the data that the HI-SEAS mission crew found won’t be released to the public until 2021. But until then, Red Heaven is a fascinating documentary that authentically examines subjects in a punctiliously concocted Mars simulation that closely evaluates the human psyche.

Red Heaven was scheduled to screen at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival.

Red Heaven (2020)

Directed and Written: Lauren DeFilippo, Katherine Gorringe

Starring: Christiane Heinicke, Tristan Bassingthwaighte, Sheyna Gifford, Carmel Johnston, Andrzej Stewart, Cyprien Verseux, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

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"…a documentary that's bigger than all of us."

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